To-go cocktails may be here to stay, at least for another few years.

A legislative panel on Tuesday unanimously recommended allowing bars, restaurants and distilleries in Maine to sell takeout alcoholic drinks through March 2025.

Lawmakers on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee amended a proposed bill that would have made to-go booze permanent. Lawmakers said they wanted to help establishments through a difficult economic time, but that it was premature to allow permanent to-go alcohol sales without more information about the public health impact and potential for abuse.

“This was originally an emergency measure to deal with the pandemic and give a lifeline to restaurants,” said Chris Caiazzo, D-Scarborough, the House committee chair. “I am not 100 percent convinced we are through that challenge yet – I think it is prudent to give them assistance.”

Extending sales for another three years “allows establishments to continue business as usual, but it also gives parties enough time to gather some data and put some hard numbers next to it,” he said.

To-go alcohol sales were legalized through an executive order from Gov. Janet Mills in March 2020 as the early coronavirus pandemic sent bars and eateries reeling. A law later that year extended takeaway sales through this year.


At a public hearing last month, representatives for the food and beverage industry said allowing to-go sales was a boost for businesses still recovering from the financial damage of the early pandemic.

To-go alcohol has become part of many of the association members’ business models, said Greg Dugal, director of government affairs for HospitalityMaine. In a September 2021 survey, almost three-quarters of respondents said they were still selling beer and wine to go, and 71 percent said they were selling cocktails.

“This program is working, and it has been a lifeline to small businesses in Maine, and for these purposes we believe the program should be given a permanent status in Maine state statute,” Dugal said.


Public health and substance use agencies warned lawmakers Wednesday about the negative effects of permanent to-go sales.

More adults reported binge drinking during the pandemic, and scant enforcement of delivery and takeout makes it easier for underage drinkers to acquire alcohol, they said.


“The unintended consequences of increased ease of access to alcohol are great and impact both youth and adults, especially those struggling to stay in recovery from alcohol use disorder,” Malory Shaughnessy, executive director of the Maine Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services, said in testimony to lawmakers.

Rep. Joyce McCreight, D-Harpswell, said the Legislature put a lot of protections into its bill, including a requirement that drink lids are sealed and other measures.

“I would ask the industry to be very careful they are holding to that, and the concern about youth having access is the concern of many, and I agree,” McCreight said.

If lawmakers want to get better data on whether t0-go sales are being misused over the next three years, they’ll have to hire more inspectors, said Greg Mineo, director of the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.

“We supported the original executive order, but I will say, if we don’t get the additional liquor inspectors we have asked for, nothing will change in our ability to oversee this type of activity,” Mineo told lawmakers Wednesday.

The bureau has five liquor inspectors responsible for almost 7,000 establishments across the state, Mineo said. He’s requested funding for three more inspectors.

“When we talk about collecting data for a full Legislature, I don’t know what we would be able to collect if we didn’t get more staffing, other than relying on tips about behavior that runs contrary to the law,” he said.

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